Gone but not Forgotten
My Kaleb was born on Thanksgiving in 2009 and passed the first day of Spring 2012. The best day and the worst day of my life within a 2 1/2 year period. I was pushed to my limits and I thought I would never function normally again.
It is the unspoken, the parents who have children that pass. Whether the child is a couple of weeks or 24 years old, we keep it inside and we don't talk about it. We never stop living with the pain but we learn how to deal with it. We learn to function but it changes our life forever.
At first, you sit in, I guess, shock. It is so hard to explain but you stare off into space, not thinking of anything at all. You don't know what to do because your life has revolved around your child for so long, you have time to sit and do nothing. Life becomes a blur and it's like you are going through the motions: work, laundry, watching tv, sleeping but you are just there. It doesn't go away in a day or a week or even a year. But little by little you snap out of it. You learn life is precious and you learn that every moment counts.
It never goes away, the hurt remains, like a puzzle piece missing from you.You are on high living and then one day, it beats you down. You cry, oh you will cry so many days. But once you get it out, you will reset and be fine until your next episode. It might be a month or a year from the last, but they will still come. You know what? That's okay though. You aren't expected to turn off your emotions or forget about your baby that is gone to soon.
Once you lose a child, you realize just how many children pass a year. I have seen several friends lose a child since my Kaleb. I am always an open door. Just to sit with if they would like, or to speak if they want to speak. Each person and how they react is different and there is no set way someone will handle it. The important thing, is to find a way to live with the loss because everyone around you wants you to get better and want you to be here.
I don't know how to tell a parent to get better. I know when Kaleb passed, I didn't want to talk, didn't eat for days and didn't even want to get out of bed. I just wanted to be in my own world and lock everyone away from me. One night, I cant remember how long it was after his passing, I had a dream. It was a short dream but in the dream, Kaleb and I were in a field and he ran up to me, grabbed my legs hugging them. When he looked up at me, he wasn't wearing his glasses and he smiled. Kaleb could not walk and he wore glasses for his Cortical blindness. As weird as it sounds, when I woke up, I felt at peace. Peace knowing he could run and see. He was, "normal", to what the world considers normal. And I knew from the huge smile, he was not in pain. No more seizures, no more feeding tube, no more medication and no more Cerebral Palsy. It was my start to me wanting to deal with how to live a new life because the life that I had lived, would never be the same.
I questioned God a lot. Kaleb was a special needs child and I was okay with it because with the traumatic birth and he and I almost dying, the hardest was over right?, we had made it. I always told him, it was me and him, we were meant to do life together. But it only lasted 2 1/2 years. Why, why in the heck did I go through everything I went through and then end up with my child passing. Why didn't we both pass that night? Why did I have to deal with living through this. This wasn't right, oh I was so angry. But eventually as time went on, I learned, there is always something else on the other side. There are somethings that you will never understand and you just have to stop questioning it. I know that I would never have had another child if Kaleb was still with me but I have been blessed to have experienced the gift of a special needs child and a very, "busy" child. I know what it is like to have both a boy and a girl. It did not come without hurdles though. I say hurdles but huge mountains with the deepest valley you can image.
My first Mother's Day after Kaleb was rough. He was at the time, my only child. Was I still a mother? Yes, I was but was I? I mean, I was a mother but had no child to watch over. Just the scars from an emergency C-Section to remind me that I once was. The next year got easier because I did know how I would react. That first year, I remember crying asking my mom, Am I even a mom? To any parent that has lost their only child, I will tell you, you are a mom, you just have an angel baby that watches over you. You don't have to celebrate the day, but know you are the most special kind of mom.
After Kaleb passed, I can remember thinking, When is it okay to be happy. Or when is it okay to smile or laugh. My co-workers were cutting up and laughing one day after Kaleb passed. They made me start laughing and I can remember thinking, is this okay? I don't remember how long after my son died that it was, but I remember thinking it. What I learned is that it is okay to be happy and laugh again. Its okay to laugh so hard you cry. You are not meant to be miserable in life, this is just part of you now, it is not who you are.
I had planned on possibly having another child. My marriage had ended but maybe artificial insemination. It was okay now, a new age thing. I could have a child and not deal with emotion and trying to make anyone happy but my baby. It would be me and the baby. Well that would turn out not to be my story at all. I would not change my story at all but I will say this. To the parents that are going through the loss together, don't give up on each other. Each of you are going to deal with the death differently. Don't shut each other out, know they are trying to deal with the loss the best way they know how too. Lean on each other and don't lose sight on the love before the death and even before you had your angel baby.
In 2014, I met my now husband. I found out I was pregnant and my fear, anxiety and stress began. I new I was a high risk pregnancy, I knew there was a 50% chance I would have another placental abruption and I knew at my age, it was borderline of being a 75% chance of having another one. I knew by stressing out about it, would make it worse. How don't you stress out about it? I mean come on, I am a realist. How could I love another boy like I loved my Kaleb? Guess what, I think someone above knew my thinking because the baby was a girl. Oh wow, a girl, I could only think, well this is going to be interesting. A girl hmmm okay.
At 35 weeks, history started to repeat itself but I would not let it happen again. The short time that my husband and I had known each other, he knew we weren't leaving the hospital until our Bella was born. We were in this together and he knew I couldn't go through what I did last time. With great nurses and doctors, Isabella Jane was born on April 17 via C-Section, healthy, screaming and kicking. What I learned, history only repeats itself if you let it. Take charge of your life because you are the only one that knows what is best for you. Others may tell you what they think is best, but deep down, follow your gut.
She was absolutely beautiful. I had a C-Section, so I had to have someone with me the whole time for the first few days. I can remember crying when they would take her away. Like I would never see her again. But each time, I did and at the time, I didn't know why I was having all these emotions, but now I know, I still had to learn how to deal with taking care of a child, when my other child was an angel. A new set of hurdles.
The first nights Bella was home, I can remember sleeping on the couch, with her right next to me, (In a bassinet). I remember crying one night and telling my husband I was worried that she would be taken away from me. My poor husband, he didn't know what was going on with me. Maybe he thought it was pregnancy hormones, I really don't know. But he said, I don't think anyone is going to take her away from you. I don't think God would do that. It did not calm my fears but looking back at it, he was pretty good at dealing with my issues and my hard times. For those who are going through this, your other half might not understand but as long as they are there for you, know they are trying. My husband came into a world wind that he has told me many times, he doesn't understand how I do it. He doesn't have to understand, he knows that, he just listens and asks questions. He knows it is a part of me and part of why I think the way I do.
I remember with Bella, I loved her but I remember not wanting to get attached to her. I had so much fear and anxiety that I was going to lose her. But it came to a point, those blue eyes and that cute little baby grin, I couldn't not get attached. It hurts to think I wanted to not let my guard down with my child but for the first few months, all I could do was worry. Now, I am so over protective of her and I know I have to let her live. Now she is 6 and I cant imagine my life without her. She is my sweet beautiful child. I spend as much time with her as I possible can and love her more than anything in the world. Although right now she says she wants to live at home forever and ever, one day she will move out and start her own adult life. I dread it but I know everyday until then, I am making it count. I want her to have so many memories that last way after I am gone. Maybe even she will create some of these memories with her own children one day.
For all who don't know what to say or what to do when a friend/family member's child passes, it not about those things. It is just about being there for the person. Letting them just talk and remember. Sometimes its just sitting with them in silence. They don't need anything, they just want to know they aren't alone. And for the parents who have lost a child, you are not alone. I try to contact parents who have lost a child, and have done it twice already this year. Me being a complete stranger but wanting them to know they are not alone. I want them to know that I don't know exactly what they are going through but I can tell them, take it day by day. I can tell them how I deal with my loss and if they are doing something strange from their normal, I can tell them it is normal. Even just getting them support groups to help is worth it. My gosh know, you are not alone.
People have asked me, What do you say? What do you do, for someone who has lost a child. Doing nothing more than sitting with the person or listening to them remember is all they want. For me, remembering wasn't always about what happened that night, it was about all the good times that they remembered. I would talk about when he stood or when he did little things that made us smile. I remembered just how much we had to do each day for him to flourish. At first, there were so many people around, and I couldn't tell you who they were. I didn't realize how many cards came in and how many people were actually at his funeral until this past month, when I got some stuff out to photograph it for this picture. But what I do remember, is the weeks and months to follow where people would ask if I was okay. No I wasn't but I would always say I was okay. No one really knows what to say. They know you aren't doing good but what else do you say? I always ask parents who have lost a child, "How are you feeling and what is on your mind"? Feeling, I usually hear exactly what they are feeling, ranging from I cant get out of bed or to being physically sick over the loss. Everyone handles the loss differently. When I asked their thoughts? They will talk about times with their child or what they are struggling to understand. I'm a lot of times asked questions about what they are feeling and the answer is always, it's a process and to give themselves time. One day they are not going to get up and be fine. They are going to fight the battle until they see their child again.
The parent will withdraw. They will want to be alone and just sleep or sit and stare. If you notice it, try and get them out. Be annoying in a loving way and consistent. They will come around and it is good for them, even if they don't think it is at that point in time. For the parent, know you have to get up and out. Force yourself to get out of bed. One day at a time, allow yourself to do things even if you don't want to. It's hard but there is a crew of people that want to help you. They are not wanting you to, "Get over it". They are wanting you to live again.
8 years later, when I talk about my story, I hate it. It is who I am but it always upsets a person. "I'm sorry", is what most people say but we don't want that. We are just telling you a part of our story. We are sharing why we believe what we do. It's like an instant downer when I tell someone. I make a joke about it, to lighten the mood. Usually, I say something like, "I know right, instant downer" or "It's okay, it's sucks I know". It usually comes out when someone asks me how many children I have. At first, I didn't know what to say. I would say that I didn't have any children but it hurt when I told people that. But I knew, society only thinks in the present and what is here on Earth. Than when my daughter was born, I would tell individuals I had a girl but that didn't feel right. Now, I tell people, I have a daughter and an angel boy. Sometimes people understand it, sometimes they do not and ask questions. Which of course is fine, I don't mind talking about it. In a weird way, talking about it, helps me function and in my mind, he is not forgotten. It is part of my story, but not my whole story.
8 years later, Kaleb's birthday and death date are hard. It has gotten easier and usually the day I am fine but I find I personally get really irritable around the middle of each month. It kind of my way of dealing with it, which doesn't make it right but I do it. Those days, I work, I occupy my time and get through them. Sometimes I cry and sometimes I don't, it just depends on the year or day. My husband at first, would never recognize the days, as he didn't know what to say or do. I would get so angry thinking he didn't care, but after a while, he told me, he knew the dates but just didn't know what to say or do for me. Now, he always says something like, "I know the date, I am thinking about you". That is it and all I need from him. Sometimes we will talk about it, other times we won't. Don't become angry because your spouse does not recognize it or doesn't make a big deal about it. They haven't been through a loss like this, they want to be there for you but don't know how. The divorce rate for parents that have lost a child is extremely high. There will come a point that you may have a significant other that has never dealt with death. Recognize they don't know or understand, talk to them and don't expect them to know what to do.
As I finish writing this, I hope for the parents that have lost a child, it has help you. I hope it shows you that there are others that have or are going through what you are. You are okay and its okay, if you are not okay, right now. I hope for all of those that know someone that has lost a child, it helps you understand more. I hope that it helps those of you who cant imagine losing a child, realize that we are okay and children pass every day. Bring awareness to this subject, just like any other tragedy that happens.
Lastly parents, your life will never be the same. It never is, I am a different person then I once was. I believe I am a better version of myself and I appreciate life more than I ever believed I would. I learned that life is about moments and living your best possible life. Be who you want to be and don't care what others think and feel. You will lose some friends and acquaintances that you once knew. Some because they don't know how to deal with your loss and some because you find out, they really aren't the people you wish to share your life with. You will meet so many people who, "Get you". Don't fear the change as a parent because this is your journey and how life is planned for you. You will learn and you will be taught what is in store for you. Just don't ever give up.